Raza Habib Raja
In my previous article titled as “ How Moderate Muslims Reinforce the Problem” I tried to explore the linkage between mindset of moderate Muslims and extremism. I tried to show that due to their denial expressed in the form of weird conspiracy theories and apologetic defense, moderate Muslims end up inadvertently supporting the extremists and the radical elements.
But why Muslims are like that? The reasons in my opinion are manifold and some are imbedded in our cognitive framework while rest are the outcome of international events and the actual behaviour of foreign players.
First of all, conspiracy theories appeal to our fundamental and deeply held conviction that a Muslim cannot do anything which would bring a bad name to Islam and lead to adverse consequences to the Muslim community. The central issue is of our mindset which is delusional and has been nurtured through Islamic mythology according to which Muslims are superior in calibre as well as virtue and therefore cannot indulge in anything sinister like terrorism. Moreover, apparently the more fundamentalist you are in your appearance harder it is for the public to actually believe that you are capable of these actions. This may explain why it has been difficult for the public to believe that Taliban are behind anything. And it also makes sense as to why they are now interpreted as “agents” or bifurcated between “good” and “bad” Taliban to explain once it has become clear that in some factions of Taliban are actually involved in hideous crimes.
This Muslim superiority assumption also explains the habit of coming up with apologetic defense (normally given when evidence has become too damning). Since Muslims in their own opinion are morally superior therefore when it is perceived by them that one of the Muslims has actually indulged in terrorism (actually when evidence is so damning that even weirdest conspiracy theory cannot “absolve” him), their natural belief is that the act is merely a reaction to the “atrocities” committed by the West. I remember reading Ansar Abbassi’s column where he tried to explain the bomb basts at a sufi shrine as a reaction to US atrocities in Afghanistan! It was weird and completely nonsensical but not surprisingly there were many takers of his view. And his view is the mainstream view.
Secondly, we always link consequences with origination. Since terrorism “benefits” West because it defames Islam and gives them a justification to retaliate, therefore in our logic it must have been solely planned by them. A classic case is of 9/11. Since the incidence led to US retaliation therefore a huge majority of the Muslims actually believe that it was actually planned by the United States itself in order to create justification for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to defame Muslims.
Likewise in Pakistan, the nuclear issue is extremely sensitive and somehow or the other assumed a central place due to our inherent insecurities and also crisis of identity. Moreover, the nuclear arsenal is perhaps the only thing which actually elevates Pakistan to at least a factor to reckon with at the global stage. It’s no wonder that every terrorist activity is then conveniently linked with the global conspiracy to destabilize Pakistan with the ultimate objective of taking hold of nuclear arsenal.Suicide blasts conducted by Muslim extremists are assumed to be planned by US so that the concerns about inadequate security of these nukes appear plausible. Now there is merit in this thought that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would always be giving the US and the West sleepless nights but to give these amazing spins that al-Qaeda is planted by USA and suicide attacks are planned and carried by USA alone is really mind boggling and moreover self contradictory. Because if Al-Qaeda and Taliban are indeed planted then military action in tribal areas would actually eliminate these agents and deprive US of the justification to take military action to neutralize the nuclear assets.
It somehow escapes otherwise extremely rich imagination of the conspiracy theorists that it becomes extremely difficult to take action against even the identified militants due to our deeply held unquestionable and contradictory convictions. If US goal is to destabilize Pakistan through suicide bombings and at the same time the identified militants are absolved of their crimes and labelled as victims of mere American propaganda, then we are willingly letting the US agents go unpunished.
Thirdly, the conspiracy theories also owe their existence (though not the extent of their weirdness) to foreign powers’ actual way of dealing which has at times been oppressive and suspicious. The flimsy case of war in Iraq has merely strengthened and worst still apparently provided some sellable legitimacy to the conspiracy theorists. Whenever there is any question to authenticity to fantastic theories, the Iraq war and US general way of handling crisis is cited as justification. As a result self contradictory theories which brand militants as US agents and yet resist government crackdown by labelling it as US war, find acceptability in the public.
Any society has to indulge into an honest intellectual discourse at the time of crisis. Unfortunately, we not only resist it, but are completely blinded to our own faults. The hatred is misplaced, the enemy is within, but we are totally oblivious to it and in the process strengthening the forces of extremism through appeasement, apologetic defense or outright denial.